The Final Decade Memoir: Josh Torres - Dragon's Dogma
Looking back at the last ten years of my life isn’t easy. A lot of new beginnings opened up this past decade as I barely finished my first quarter as a college freshman in fall 2009. I’ll never forget my first year at Cal Poly Pomona; it was the most lost I’d ever felt in my life at that point. I didn’t really get a chance to bask in my triumph through the standardized American education system, but the one thing I felt confident about was that my future was set in my head. I graduated high school on a strong note and I’ll breeze through college with a strong computer science degree. Easy. I like computers so I’ll love it, right? Heh, good one, me.
It’s a common story you’ve probably heard time and time again. I came to the quick realization that computer science wasn’t for me at all. I felt trapped. I had no idea how I was going to proceed forward and I knew the longer I came to an answer, the harder it would be to find a way out. This was a problem because I know I’m a difficult person when it comes to commitment.
Pushing myself to feel passionate enough about something to pursue it as a curiosity is a tremendous ask. I tend to know very quickly whether I know I’ll like something or not. Asking me to stick to something I’ve already deemed not worth it prior is not impossible, but it’ll have me mentally rolling my eyes until something surprising catches my eye.
My life took a turn from the most unexpected source. It’s probably embarrassing to preserve this in text, though it had to be done sooner or later. If this article is somehow still up and a future iteration of myself is reading this, I hope you haven’t forgotten you dumb bastard.
One of the biggest influences that shaped my life’s path was the Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer movie. Yes, that is how you spell it. No, I don’t think it’s a great movie. I sure did watch it at the absolute perfect point in my life though.
Without going into the weeds too much, this movie was the culmination of the two prior TV seasons of Gundam 00. The previous 50 episodes were all in service of having all the characters you’ve come to know and maybe love come together to fend off an ancient alien race from annihilating humanity. They do this in the movie by having the main hero, Setsuna F. Seiei, get in a new shiny giant robot that was built to communicate with these aliens and basically tell them “Hey, please don’t do this. Thanks. I’ll become a weird alien too as a sign of our relationship.” That’s literally the freaking movie beyond all the pretty giant robots looking cooler than usual because they’re on the big screen. I’m not kidding; ask your local Gundam friend.
This movie hit me in a way very different than maybe… all of its other viewers. Probably. Most definitely.
I never thought much of communication as a serious path to pursue in life. I immigrated to the United States from the Philippines back in 1997 and was lucky enough to become fluent in English fairly quickly. I grew up, made new friends continually, and went through the motions. I never paid much mind to how powerful the facets of communication were and that stupid Gundam 00 movie exposed that in an admittedly heavy-handed way, but it worked. I knew that my mental state, and my life in general, was on the brink of shambles after realizing that my ideal plan wasn’t the one that my heart wanted.
That’s how I became an organizational communication major from then on. I swear this is all 100% true. Going down this now unpredictable path was probably one of my better decisions this decade. I learned a ton of life skills that helped me feel better equipped in dealing with some of the more difficult decisions I encountered. Sure, concepts like considering another person’s perspective when dealing with a conflict or being in the appropriate mindset before tackling a situation seems simplistic when laid out neatly, but learning to apply them on-the-fly in uncertain scenarios became a fascinating thing to me. Lessons on how to effectively gauge another party’s desires prior to contact, reading up on how verbally non-communicative people still convey their thoughts through their body language, and defusing situations without entirely giving in still hold great value that I refer back to again and again when the need arises.
I eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in that field. It wasn’t the easiest thing to wrap my head around, though I suppose what’s most important is that it gripped my intrigue enough to commit my life to; hell, it still does. The art of communication sparked my interest and I can still feel the ripples of that fateful time in my life.
This whole spiel is basically the backbone of why I chose Dragon’s Dogma as the game that impacted my life most this decade. Hold on, before that - please watch the trailer that made me buy this game. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again.
(If for some reason this video isn't popping up for you, click here.)
Ok. Dragon’s Dogma. You’ve probably heard of it. This game was one of Capcom’s last attempts at making a brand new game featuring a brand new IP that wasn’t a sequel, spin-off, remake, or remaster for one of their various long-standing franchises. Dragon’s Dogma was also noticeable because Hideaki Itsuno directed it. You may know him from beloved titles like Project Justice, Star Gladiator, or Auto Modellista. He also directed niche stuff like Devil May Cry 3/4/5 and Capcom vs. SNK 2.
Kidding aside, Dragon’s Dogma truly helped me find a way forward in my life over these past years. My life up to 2010 was meeting educational expectations through regurgitating the “correct” answers my classes wanted to hear for that passing grade. It had its merits for sure, yet that’s what had to be done at the bare minimum. I didn’t know what I really wanted; I wasn’t sure what I wanted to work towards in life.
I can’t tell you with absolute confidence that I’ve found the answer to that yet, but I discovered who I wanted to be this past decade. Dragon’s Dogma wasn’t the spark. It was one of the earliest catalysts to help me make sense of this vague desire to become a better communicator. I want to be someone that can clarify uncertain thoughts, feelings, desires, and sentiments to avoid misunderstandings, If there’s a way my words can minimize the potential of misinterpretations and confusions that lead to conflict, I want to pursue that.
Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t necessarily dwell on this specific concept narratively, but much of its visual imagery surrounding its unique Pawn system spoke volumes to me. Instead of having direct online multiplayer with other people, every player designed their own sidekick that could be called upon into other players’ games. These Pawns can be customized just like the player’s character allowing the option to dress them in armor, change their classes, and alter their roles. Their AI and manner of speech could also be tinkered with by having them sit on a chair and answering a few questions about how you wanted them to act. It was weird. Sure, it wasn’t the thing people actually wanted yet I found it delightfully charming on top of all the hammy dialogue.
It got me thinking about a single word that still reverberates with me to this day. Legacy.
Pawns are much like babies in Dragon’s Dogma; they’re essentially sponges that’ll absorb and utilize what they’re taught. What you teach them will be reflected in someone else’s game and they may learn new things you weren’t privy to when they return from someone else’s game - stuff life secret areas or a monster’s weakness. It was incredible at the time.
Pawns were these vessels of shared knowledge that were passed around in a time when social media wasn’t as prevalent. There was still a looming sense of mystery in games that made for amusing tales to share. My friends and I would talk for hours sharing our adventures of what dumb thing I saw their Pawn do in my game or how insane someone else’s Pawn was when fighting against a certain foe because it knew it so well. I still believe that Pawns in Dragon’s Dogma are an amazing personification of the concept of a legacy in a vacuum; their entire being is a constant culmination of the information exchanged on what they learn and learned at any given time. The knowledge that has been passed down to them from being in countless instances of Dragon’s Dogma is apparent and it’s effective.
As I’ve grown older throughout the decade, I’ve really started to think about what I want to be in the eyes of my two nephews. I’m not a perfect person; I’ve had my share of ups and downs and I try to improve my faults and take responsibility for my wrongdoings. I don’t want my nephews to make the same mistakes I’ve made. I’m not sure what my lasting legacy will be to others. I’m unsure how people have felt about me or how they see me these days. Ultimately, I don’t know what life has in store for me and if worse comes to worst, I, at the very least, want my nephews to remember me as someone they proudly looked up to.
Thinking about what I want to leave behind for others has such a strange weight of responsibility attached to it. I’m never quite certain what ripples my actions today will make one day. I wonder if the person I am now is the person I hoped to become ten years ago.
Dragon’s Dogma has served as a strange guidepost over the past several years. Its whimsical nature of allowing me to travel aimlessly throughout its vast world, unaware of what I’ll encounter or whom I’ll meet just around the corner, aligns with my own personal journey up to this point in life.
I’ve made strange gambles wandering off into unknown territory; I joined RPG Site a little over 4 years ago from a Twitter DM offering the job from out of nowhere. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I hesitantly accepted it at time, but here I am. I’ve traveled here and there on my own, sometimes to places where everyone was a stranger, and learning a tiny bit about the lives of people I’ve never met. I’m a drifter when it comes to communities or social circles; I come and go, depending on what I’m into at the time, and I’ve never quite committed to a main or primary one. It’s something I’ve found difficult to accept, but ultimately I’ve come around on this self realization of my lonely nature for the time being.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have friends, acquaintances, or buddies I get along with from time to time. Maybe it’s a phenomenon or mood that a handful of people go through when growing up into early adulthood. I can get along with people fine, but I don’t really feel that I make lasting meaningful connections. In a way, Dragon’s Dogma patted me on the shoulder and told me it’s ok to feel like this.
I’ve learned a lot this decade. I’ve also lost a lot this decade. I want to be a guidepost for those who feel lost. I’d like to look in the mirror one day and feel confident that what I do helps people in some way.
With all that said, this concludes the Decade Memoirs. It was an honor to share these tales with our readers. From all of us on staff, we want to thank you for your ongoing support visiting and reading the site. I hope you’ve learned something new from the various writers who contributed to this wonderful feature.
Cheers to the next ten years!